“I’m not talented enough to become someone completely different,” says the affable “Arrested Development” actor, recently in The City to promote the R-rated comedy, which opens Friday.
He says he found aspects of the character — an angry man in his 40s who willfully sabotages his child competitors in spelling bees — in “a dark, dark corner” of his personality: “I went back to a time when I didn’t know when to stop, liked too much attention and got my feelings hurt too easily.”
He also admits, “I enjoy the challenge of playing a character who’s despicable on paper.” And after not getting his first choice to play the primary role in the film — he won’t mention names — he says he also enjoyed not having to direct the lead actor.
Drawn to movies with a “specific tone” combining comedy and drama such as “Being John Malkovich,” Bateman purposely chose a “containable” character-driven film as his directorial debut: “There are not a lot of tricks, explosions or effects.”
It’s also not for everyone: “It has kids in it, but you can’t have kids come see it,” he says.
If he had the opportunity, Bateman would direct full-time, and he points to Paul Thomas Anderson, David O. Russell and Spike Jonze as filmmakers whose productions he admires.
In the meantime, he’ll continue to act and direct. He’s looking forward to doing both in “The Family Fang,” a project he’s working on with Nicole Kidman that’s based on Kevin Wilson’s daring novel about a seemingly wacky family of performance artists.
He also has a big starring role in the long-awaited film adaptation of Jonathan Tropper’s hilarious best-seller “This Is Where I Leave You.”
Bateman, who says Tropper told him he wrote the book’s hangdog protagonist character with him in mind, adds, “I’m not sure whether to be offended or flattered by that.”
Meanwhile, the funny 45-year-old actor, who appears to be about 30 in person, takes flattery with humor. Praised for looking so great, he quips, “Injections.”
IF YOU GO
Starring Jason Bateman, Rohan Chand, Kathryn Hahn, Allison Janney, Philip Baker Hall
Written by Andrew Dodge
Directed by Jason Bateman
Running time 1 hour, 29 minutes